Mitscher has been called, “the preeminent carrier-force commander in the world,” but Navy Admiral Marc A. Mitscher didn’t always garner such respect. Navy aerologists repeatedly doubted his highly accurate weather predictions, attributing the correct forecasts to mere luck. Several “lucky” predictions later, the aerologists halted their criticism, conceding that Mitscher’s keen meteorological sense came from a lifetime of weather watching.
- In 1919 piloted one of the unsuccessful NC seaplanes attempting the first airborne transatlantic crossing.
- Made the first successful take off and landing on the USS Saratoga in 1928.
- Commanded the USS Hornet, when the carrier launched the first successful bombing mission of Japan’s home islands in 1942.
- Developed the idea of operating aircraft carriers in groups, or “task forces,” a strategy that drastically improved the effectiveness of carrier warfare.
- During the final months of World War II he commanded carrier Task Force 58, leading air assaults on Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and the Japanese home islands.
Admiral Marc A. Mitscher earned distinction as one of the U.S. Navy’s great battle commanders during the 41 years that he served his country.
Marc Andrew Mitscher was born in Hillsboro, Wisconsin on January 26th, 1887. While growing up in the Washington, D.C. area, he attended intermediate and high school there. In 1906, he received his appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy. He graduated in 1910 and served at sea for two years, as required by law at that time, before being commissioned on March 7th, 1912.
In August 1913 Mitscher served aboard the USS California on the West Coast during the Mexican Campaign. After subsequent duty on the destroyers Whipple and Stewart, he reported for aviation training at Naval Aeronautic Station (NAS) Pensacola, on board USS North Carolina, which was one of the first Navy ships to carry an airplane. Mitscher received a designation Naval Aviator No. 33 on June 2nd, 1916 and remained at NAS Pensacola for duty and further instruction.
On April 6th, 1917, he reported to USS Huntington for duty in connection with aircraft catapult experiments. Mitcher subsequently received various other assignments until February 1919, when he was transferred to the Aviation Section in the office of the Chief of Naval Operations. In 1919, Mitscher, then a lieutenant commander, piloted one of the three NC seaplanes that attempted the first airborne transatlantic crossing. The NC-4, not piloted by Mitscher, went on to make the successful, historic crossing. Then, Admiral Mitscher joined the USS Aroostook with additional duty later commanding the Detachment of Air Forces at Fleet Air Base, San Diego, California. He was then assigned to the Plans Division, Bureau of Aeronautics in 1922.
Mitscher made the USS Saratoga’s first takeoff and landing on January 11th, 1928 in a Vought UO-l. He left the Saratoga in June 1929 to return to the USS Langley, a carrier on which he was served for a brief period in 1926. The admiral had a series of staff and command assignments until July 1941, when he went to Norfolk, Virginia, for the duty in fitting out USS Hornet. The carrier was commissioned on October 20th, 1941, and Captain Marc Mitscher became her first commanding officer. During World War II, the Hornet was the “Shangri-La” from which American planes, under the command of Army Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle, took off on April 18th, 1942, to bomb military targets on the Japanese homeland. Aboard the Hornet, Mitscher led several successful attacks against the enemy carrier forces. He was relieved of command of the Hornet in July 1942, three months before Japanese planes sunk her during an air attack at the Battle of Santa Cruz Islands.
Mitscher then commanded Patrol Wing Two until December 1942, when he became commander of the Fleet Wing, Noumea. In April 1943, now a rear admiral, Mitscher went to Guadalcanal as Commander Air, Solomon Islands, in charge of the Navy, Army, Marine and Royal New Zealand Air Force units. The Americans has secured Guadalcanal but was still under constant enemy fire from the Japanese occupying the North Islands. Vice Admiral William Halsey sent Mitscher, according to Admiral Arleigh Burke, because he “was a fighting fool and could handle the tough job.”
When Mitscher assumed command of Task Force 58 in 1944, the mighty naval force opened the campaign to capture the Marshall Islands. Under Mitscher’s leadership and guided by his wisdom, Task Force 58 contributed directly to the capture and occupation of the Marshalls in February 1944. In the days that followed, Mitscher led his task forces in attacks against heavily fortified Japanese bases. In the closing months of the war, Admiral Mitscher used many innovative tactics as he experimented with formations and maneuvers, leading a series of attacks against the Japanese home forces.
He returned to the U.S. as Deputy Chief of Naval Operations on July 10th, 1945, was appointed to the rank of full admiral and assumed command of the Eighth Fleet on March 1st, 1946. He became Commander in Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet in September of 1946. After 41 years of continuous naval service, Admiral Marc A. Mitscher died of a heart attack on February 3rd, 1947. Admiral Arleigh Burke eulogized Mitscher as being a “bulldog of a fighter, a strategist blessed with an uncanny ability to foresee his enemy’s next move. He was above all else, a Naval Aviator.”
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